Swinging '60s meet upper crust in Fellowes novel

Tue Sep 1, 2009 10:01pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Julian Fellowes, who won an Oscar for his "Gosford Park" screenplay and topped bestseller lists with debut novel "Snobs," built his reputation on recreating the fun and foibles of the British upper crust.

In "Past Imperfect," which hits the stores in the United States this week, the British author is back among earls and baronets, London cocktail parties and debutante balls, but Fellowes says that this time his story is not about class.

"Snobs is a lighter book, an easier read," he said in a telephone interview. "Snobs is, to a certain extent, about class, about modern class, whereas Past Imperfect is not about class, it's about time and what time does to lives.

"In youth we are all dreaming of the wonderful lives we are going to have and part of growing old is coming to terms with what actually happens."

The action in Past Imperfect switches between the late '60s and the present. Fellowes chose the timeframe because, he said, 1969 was the year of Woodstock and the peak of what have become known as the "Swinging Sixties."

While social conventions at the time were changing for good, not everyone saw the upheaval coming.

"Looking back, I realize there was hardly a parent there who thought their daughters' future would be anything more than an extended repeat of their own present," the narrator says of a society ball in London.

"How can they have been so secure in their expectations? Didn't it occur to them that more change might be on its way?"   Continued...